WATCH: Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Gary Peters hold town hall on coronavirus in Michigan

Posted at 6:03 AM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 20:36:29-04

(WXYZ) — Michigan's U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters joined 7 Action News' Carolyn Clifford, Fox 2's Huel Perkins and WDIV's Devin Scillian for The Senators' Town Hall, answering questions about the coronavirus crisis in Michigan.

Metro Detroit television stations joined together to bring this commercial-free event.

In response to the town hall, Michigan Republican Party Chairman Laura Cox released this statement:

Whether it’s voting against the CARES Act twice to provide critical support during the COVID-19 crisis or standing by idly while Democrat leadership blocks additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program – Gary Peters has failed to stand up for Michigan at every turn. During these times of great need, our state has been robbed of a serious voice in Washington and is left with a typical partisan seat-filler. All the while Michiganders are suffering and need serious leadership.

Read a blog of questions asked and answered during the town hall below.

7:54 p.m.

The last question asked during the town hall focused on relief for college students, as many students were not eligible for stimulus funds, and have lost out on internships, jobs and more since the health crisis began.

Stabenow and Peters have a stimulus check bill in the works for students, Stabenow said. The bill will include a $500 stimulus for students. Stabenow also pointed to other areas of relief for students, such as loan deferment. Lastly, she added that there's still a lot that needs to be done for students, and they aim to address that within the next stimulus package.

7:44 p.m.

The city of Detroit has boasted rapid testing for frontline workers amid the crisis. Some would say the rapid 15-min testing should be available across Michigan.

Peters says right now there is a challenged to scale up the tests, but he's been in contact with a testing lab that is currently working to up its testing system. The lab is ramping up production and planing to double it production in the next several months, which would help expand testing throughout the private sector so people feel comfortable throughout their workplaces.

7:39 p.m.

Sen. Peters says that he negotiated a loan to help local post offices within the CARES ACT. Additional help is still needed, as revenues have dropped more than 15 percent, he added.

Peters says bridge loans are need to get post offices through this pandemic. Also, a restructuring of the entire system is needed in order to continue to be vibrant – especially for rural areas.

7:36 p.m.

Senator Peters talked about the disproportionate impact the coronavirus has had on black and brown communities in southeast Michigan.

Peters said that the data shows that we've got to make sure we're providing health care in those communities, while particularly addressing pre-exsiting conditions.

"We've got to make sure that we have the resources to serve communities that have been underserved in this country," he said.

Peters added that enrollment in the Affordable Care Act should be opened.

"It makes no sense that we are not opening for enrollment during this health crisis," Peters said. "This pandemic has exposed the inequities we have in this society in an epic way."

7:25 p.m.

The question of another bail out amid the health crisis was brought up. Peters praised the auto companies for diversifying in the midst of the crisis, but manufacturing PPE and needed equipment for frontline workers, but says that he doesn't believe another bail out will be necessary.

7:20 p.m.

The senators were questioned on the financial health of many hospitals, which is in question. From shutdowns to furloughed employees, hospitals in Michigan are strained.

"There's no question, we need to provide additional help to our health care workers," Peters said, adding that $150B was approved in the CARES ACT but more is still needed.

"I fully support that," Peters said.

He added that in the same vein, small businesses, as well as health care, need additional resources. Rural hospitals in particular, Peters said, are in a difficult situation.

"They're really right on the edge and they can fall off without additional resources," he said.

Stabenow weighed in on the laying off of health care workers, saying hospitals rely on medicare and medicaid, as well as elective procedures that have gone down during the health crisis.

So what's need are more resources.

"We've got to keep our hospitals going, not only so they can respond to the pandemic but so that they can come out on the other end of this," Stabenow said.

7:08 p.m.

Stabenow and Peters are asked why they voted against the initial $2 trillion stimulus package.

"The original plan wasn't good for Michigan, it wasn't good for us," Stabenow said, adding that the entire process in the Senate took only five days for an over $2 trillion package.

Stabenow added that the original bill didn't have health care money that was needed.

The senators say there will be another package moving through that will provide additional aid for frontline workers.

7:03 p.m.

The first question to begin the town hall is about President Trump's plan to reopen the country in phases. Stabennow responded saying we have to make whatever decisions as a country based on medical expertise and testing.

"Eventually a vaccine is going to give us the confidence to go back and live our lives," she said. "But right now, it's about testing."

Peters echoed the same sentiment, pointing to other county's that have reopened, while mentioning that what's need now, in Michigan, is more PPE and even strict social distancing.

"This is a very delicate line, a very delicate balance moving forward," he said.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Read our daily Coronavirus Live Blog for the latest updates and news on coronavirus.

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

Find out how you can help metro Detroit restaurants struggling during the pandemic.

See all of our Helping Each Other stories.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.